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Is There A Place for Religious Education in a 21st Century Secular Society?

The ATC approach to Religious Education

In an increasingly secular society, where academic stakes are high and student outcomes are assessed internally by schools and external bodies, many people might question the place of Religious Education in our 21st century schools. The tradition of Catholic schools in Australia is long and our story continues to evolve today and into the future. Many in our society may question whether Catholic schools, and Religious Education, remain relevant in our world.

Year 10 to 12 students preparing meals for Holy Trinity Pantry, supporting people experiencing hardships.

Ambrose Treacy College, like other Religious schools, is accountable not only to state and federal educational authorities, but also to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church outlines the clear mission and purpose of our schools, that being to provide education that is holistic in nature, taking into account the many and varied needs of students, as well as living out the evangelising mission of the Church. Catholic schools in the 21st century are seen as centres for full human formation, integrating academic and faith formation. The Catholic school should set out to be a school for the whole human person and be at the service of society.

We do this, in part, through our Religious Education Program. To clearly define the parameters of our Religious Education program is a difficult task; it is more than what is outlined in syllabus documents, taking place formally and informally in many and varied ways. Catholic school structures should support pastoral care, our formation pillars, well-being initiatives, formal religious celebration, service learning and formal Religious Education curriculum.

Over time, various models of Church have been examined. One model is of Church as gathering, which seeks to engage in an authentic dialogue with the world in which it operates, while standing in solidarity with the human family and seeking an exchange of culture and wisdom with the world. This in in contrast to an older model of Church which operates based on religious hierarchy, where mission is directed outward with an emphasis on obedience and internally focused ministry. My reflection, as a new member of the ATC community in 2019, is that the former model which is focused on authenic dialogue, is employed not only here but in the broader EREA community.

The place of Religious Education is paramount to the formation of an ATC student. Through this lens we look to engage in dialogue with the broader community and bear witness to faith through our clearly stated values. To be this Sign of Faith in the world is often to push back against many of the expectations of a society which is increasingly encouraging us to become self-interested rather than community minded.

To truly live the values we espouse, requires formation and education; it is what makes ATC the unique and special place it is.

Signum Fidei is who we are, and it is what the world needs us to be.

Danika Ehlers
Head of Religious Education